Slow golfers don't believe they are slow. They are totally oblivious to the pain they are causing others. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny. But I'm not laughing.
In the past two weeks I've experienced more than my share of 5+ hour rounds and it's gotten to the point where I don't want to play anymore.
Last week, I tried a course I'd never played before. When I got to the first tee I was shocked to find out that we were almost 1/2 hour behind because the pro shop had allowed a group of 12 play in one tee time - yup, 3 groups of 4 guys booked one tee time and showed up to play.
By the 5th hole they were so drunk they were spraying balls left and right and then decided to play as two groups of six. We walked off after 9 holes and will never play there again (and others walked off with us). I don't blame the golfers; I blame the golf course. They aren't doing themselves, their customers of this industry any favors by being "nice".
After that experience we decided to play at a semi-private club near us, assuming it would be faster. Wrong! The foursome in front of us did all the things slow players are famous for. I can't tell you how many times one guy would walk off the tee box, to his power cart, start it up and then realize he forgot to pick up his tee. He would stop the cart and walk back to the tee box and pick it up.
On the 5th hole, we were standing in the fairway ready to hit our approach shots after the group finally meandered off the green. But then one of them ran back up to the green, waved at us not to hit and then proceeded to walk towards us, through a greenside bunker, pick up a ball, and walk out the other side (no rake was ever touched).
On the very next hole, they left their cart on the wrong side of the green when they went up to putt . That's when it went from slow to insane.
The last guy putting started walking slowly towards the next hole . When he got to the edge of the green his buddy sitting in the cart on the opposite side called out to him, "Hey, I'm over here!", so he walked across the entire green to the cart . The moment he got there his friend said, "Never mind, you walk and I'll just drive over.", so slow-man-walking sauntered back over the green for the 3rd time towards the other hole . And instead of driving the cart around the back of the green where there was a paved cart path, the driver decided to take a short cut through the fairway, inside the "no carts allowed" area . I'm sure he broke the rules in the interest of speeding up play - HA!
This type of behavior continued until finally a "Players Assistant" came up to us on the 17th hole and apologized for the group in front of us. He whined, "No matter how many times I told them to speed up, I couldn't get them to move any faster." Poor PA - suddenly he is playing "the victim".
As we watched Knucklehead #1 putt out for a 10 on the par 3, we just shook our heads. We then asked the PA why they were allowed to tee off at the blue tees anyway, given they were obviously 30+ handicappers. The club used to post a sign at that tee letting players know it was for golfers with a factor of 8 or better. We asked him to have it brought back; he just shrugged his shoulders and apologized again.
Slow play is an epidemic that is killing this game because players don't see themselves as slow and no one tells them that they are a problem. Marshalling is non-existant at most courses and even when PAs exist, they do very little to speed up play. They clean up cigarette butts and return forgotten clubs, but I've never once seen them make any significant difference on the pace of play problem plaguing the industry.
Tough love is needed on golf courses to keep this game alive. Starters need to enforce tee box selection based on skill and Course Managers need to publicize a Pace of Play policy that is enforced by their PAs with zero tolerance.
But don't look to the PGA Tour for help. Rather sad don't you think that the Tour, which has not issued a slow-play penalty since 1995, finally decided to dole out some damage and chose 14 year-old Guan Tianlang at The Masters as their "token" slowpoke? Meanwhile its European counterpart decided 1st year pro, Hideki Matsuyama would be a good "safe" candidate for punishment at the Open.
What about all those notoriously known offenders who have never had to add an extra stroke to their cards, including...
- Ben Crane
- Padraig Harrington
Here's another idea...What if golf courses charged you by the minute? What if you punched a clock at tee off, again at the turn and after 18? To play you would have to put down a deposit and you get money back if you finish on time. Finish late and you pay! That would sure speed things up, don't you think?
Unfortunately these ideas are just pipe dreams of mine. Golf clubs are not taking this problem seriously enough and players are oblivious to their own tardy transgressions.
So, today a round of golf under 4 hours only happens if you are first off the tee at 6 AM. After 8, golf becomes not "a good walk spoiled", but a royal waste of time.